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In-Car Data Now Evidence In Court Cases

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October 28, 2014


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In-Car Data Now Evidence In Court Cases

In-Car Data Now Evidence In Court Cases

Modern cars carry a lot of information. This is obvious when you can simply hand your key over to a service advisor, and he has access to lots of information about your vehicle, simply by inserting your key into a device reader. Now, lawyers want access to in-car data, to be used as evidence in court cases.

Your key only holds part of the story, however. The real juicy stuff is gathered through your vehicles telematics systems. You might know them better through their brand names such as GM’s OnStar, BMW ConnectedDrive or Ford’s Sync. Lawyers want to get their hands on this information to help build their court cases.

In-car data is not intended to build evidence in court cases. It’s intent is to offer safety services and benefits to motorists. However, with the growing use of cellular technology, one could wonder where is the line between smart phones and smart cars?

There are plenty of privacy concerns about telematics, and the use of in-car data. Subsequently, there are now responsibilities regarding the issue of data management. Automakers have been turning over the information when issued court orders to do so. Additionally, cell phone records, vehicle black boxes and airbag modules are all potential evidence in court cases, thanks to privacy terms. Each automaker’s privacy agreement clearly state that the in-car data will be released to law enforcement and the courts if required.

According to Ford, the data can only be retrieved with direct physical access to the vehicle, and not remotely. The automaker says that they do not track customers or continuously transmit vehicle from a vehicle, and none is transmitted wirelessly without customer consent. They claim that they only receive location data when customers use certain services or look up points of interest.

“Location data is only shared with our partners when necessary to fulfill the services requested by the customer,” Ford said. “As you would expect, our partners are legally bound by contract to protect this information. Ford does not share such data with any other companies, and Ford does not sell this data.”

OnStar has said that it does not “share data with law enforcement absent a court order unless it is necessary to protect the safety of its customers or others.” OnStar does provide data to police in cases of stolen cars and can cut off a car’s power.

This in-car data now used as evidence cannot stand alone in court, it must be backed by other evidence, but it’s definitely helpful to lawyers in building cases. A major issue with using the data in courts is chain of custody. Questions have been raised regarding who retrieved the system from the vehicle and what was done with it, who downloaded the data and what was done with it afterward? Another factor is reliability. Toyota has said that it’s event data recorders cannot always be trusted.

Let’s hope that the insurance companies don’t get their hands on it!

By Linda

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